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Ukrainian-born QC woman fighting the war with cookies

Katya Scaife is baking and selling traditional Ukrainian cookies. So far, she's raised nearly $2,000 for the war efforts.

BETTENDORF, Iowa — Katya Scaife wore blue and yellow ribbons woven through her braid the night we met her in her Bettendorf home. A "Ukraine" t-shirt was under her apron.

"Born and raised in Ukraine," she told us. "City of Donetsk."

Katya moved to the U.S. with her American husband Jason 15-years ago. They got married in Donetsk and together they have have lived all over the U.S. following Jason's assignments with the U.S. Army. They have an 11-year-old daughter. 

Even in the middle of baking hundreds of cookies, Katya's kitchen is spotless. The ingredients for the dough are portioned next to the mixer. Prepared dough balls are lined up next to the stove. Each round ball gets placed into the mold and heated crisp. They form each half of the cookie sealed together with sticky caramel. 

She calls them walnut cookies, named for their size and appearance only. She explained that this is her mother's favorite cookie recipe, and they often made them together. 

"She did all the hot stuff," Katya explained, motioning to the stove. "And I had a little knife with a red handle, and I cut the edges. It was just my favorite thing to do with my mom."

Now her daughter does the same thing.

"I never told her that," Katya said, smiling. 

This was a special-occasion recipe for her family growing up in Ukraine. Here, she makes them in solidarity, not celebration.

"The Ukrainians are peaceful people," she said. "They don't want a war."

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A war that actually started eight years ago for her family in Donetsk. The Russian occupation started in the eastern region of Ukraine in 2014. On the first day, her childhood home was destroyed. Her family hasn't been able to live there since. 

Katya took two photos from that house before she left. One is a a big family photo. The other is a picture with her mother, smiling and hugging. She wishes she had taken more.

"All gone. No pictures. Everything destroyed," she said.

Katya calls her mother every morning, just to hear her voice. Sometimes their calls come after her mother has just spent the entire night in the bomb shelter. 

"It hurts to see and hear what she is saying," Katya said. 

She begs her mom to leave Ukraine. To find a way to cross the border into a neighboring country like Slovakia. But she says her mother doesn't want to go. Katya's sister is still there, and her mother won't leave her grandchildren. 

Watching the news and hearing the stories makes Katya feel helpless, if it weren't for those little walnut cookies.  

"In Ukraine we have these words that you take a thread from everybody and make a shirt," she explained. "I fight the war with the cookies." 

"Have some," she said, gesturing toward a basket full of the little walnuts. She served us tea to go with them.

Since the war started a month ago, Katya has made almost 700 cookies. She sells them in packages of 10 in paper bags decorated with blue and yellow ribbons — the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Overall she's raised almost $2,000. The money is going to "Come Back Alive", a Ukrainian organization collecting money for weapons, ammunition and supplies for the war effort. 

To contact Katya about buying her cookies, you can send her an e-mail —ScaifeVT@yahoo.com 

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